Microplastics Found in Human Hearts

Blog updated 3/7/2024 to reflect the latest scientific information about microplastics in human hearts.

Microplastics, the tiny toxic particles that all plastics shed, appear to be accumulating in one of our bodies’ most important organs: our hearts. Last month, scientists published research from a small pilot study that shows evidence that microplastics are present in multiple types of human heart tissues, and backs up research confirming its presence in our blood.

The presence of microplastics in our hearts comes with big threats to human health. Experts have found that people with plastic particles in their heart are unfortunately at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, and death.

Plastic Particles in Five Heart Regions & Blood

In the pilot study, researchers collected heart tissue samples from five different regions of the heart in 15 patients while they were undergoing heart surgeries. They also collected blood samples from the patients before and after their operations. 

The researchers found tens to thousands of microplastic pieces in each sample assessed, including common plastics used to make single-use beverage bottles (PET), and those introduced during surgery such as pieces of intravenous (IV) solution bags (PVC). All of the blood samples contained plastic particles, building documentation of the presence of plastic particles in human blood, which was announced for the first time in 2022.

Plastic Particles Hurt Human Heart Health

While evidence of microplastics and nanoplastics in the human body is well-established and growing, research that can help us understand the actual effects of these plastic particles on our health is just getting underway. Much more research is needed to understand the full range of consequences of plastic particles in our bodies and their impacts on our health.

One of the first studies attempting to understand such impacts assessed potential links between the presence of microplastics in carotid artery plaques of patients undergoing heart surgery and heart disease. Scientists found polyethylene in the hearts of more than 58% of the 257 patients studied and followed up with. More than 12% of patients had PVC particles in their arterial plaques. The patients with microplastics detected in their plaques also showed signs of inflammation in their bodies, and were much more likely to go on to experience heart attack, stroke, and death from any cause compared to patients without evidence of microplastics traveling to their hearts.

This is pivotal. For so long, people have been saying these things are in our bodies, but we don’t know what they do.

—  Philip J. Landrigan, MD, M.Sc., an epidemiologist and professor of biology at Boston College, and Plastic Pollution Coalition Scientific Advisor, remarking on the study for Fast Company

Evidence of Plastic Pollution Contamination Grows

The two studies suggest that our bodies transport microplastics into our hearts via our bloodstreams, with clearly negative effects on heart function and our overall health. Plastic gets into our blood when we absorb, ingest, and inhale it into our bodies.

Our hearts are one of the most important organs keeping our bodies alive. While researchers urge more research to understand the impacts of their findings, evidence of the harmful effects of microplastics—and even smaller-sized nanoplastics, which researchers did not look for in this study—already exists, and is only building.  

Thanks to the testimony and observations of people on the frontlines of the plastic crisis, we know that plastic pollution includes the contamination of the environment and all living beings, including plants, insects, humans, and other animals with microplastic and nanoplastic particles. Plastic particles contain and leach hormone-disrupting, immune-suppressing, and carcinogenic additives. 

Yet plastic also pollutes with climate-warming greenhouse gases and hazardous chemicals, such as dioxins, heavy metals, and polychlorinated bisphenyls throughout its endless toxic existence. Plastic pollutes from the moment its fossil fuel ingredients are extracted from the Earth, to its eventual fate in the environment, landfills, dumps, open burns, recycling and sorting, facilities, and incinerators.

Be Part of Solutions to Plastic Pollution

Solutions to plastic pollution must take into account all stages of plastic’s existence, from production to use and disposal. Solutions exist today, and everyone is needed to achieve the world we need.

Shifting from systems that favor unhealthy and wasteful single-use plastics to healthy and more Earth-compatible plastic-free reuse, refill, repair, share, and regenerative systems is the most significant way to address plastic pollution. 

An opportunity to catalyze those major necessary shifts is now on the table. And we need your help to get there: Please urge both the U.S. government and international leaders to take a strong stance on UN Global Plastics Treaty negotiations. Polluters must be held accountable, and people must be protected, supported, and empowered to engage in solutions.

Change starts with each and every one of us. As you push for systems change, commit to refusing single-use plastic every day!

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One response to “Microplastics Found in Human Hearts”

  1. Randy Johnson says:

    You should also go after plastics in automobile interiors. Consider PVC seat covers that have become pushed over natural leather due to cost considerations. PVC is amongst the most dangerous material.

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